Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Why Matiang'i must go (Part 2)

When Fred Matiang'i did the equivalent of rolling his eyes after it was revealed that older students at Alliance High School were torturing their juniors, it should have clued us to the callousness of managerialism as the guiding religion of today's education sector, even though the signs had always been there. From the devastating fire at Kyanguli High School to the one at Moi Girls School Nairobi, managerialism and its high priests has turned education into a commodity and educational institutions into markets.

The symptoms of managerialism's ill-effects don't just include arson attacks that lead to students' deaths, but the constant need to obtain academic credentials without being educated even a bit. Mr Matiang'i is living proof that academic credentials and managerial competence are not the same thing as being educated and as his steamroller has flattened all opposition to the proposed basic education curriculum that is being "piloted" in the country, so too his managerialist solutions to school fires will brook no criticism or counter-proposals. Managers do the math and implement solutions that have numbers at their heart, not the people affected by them.

Because of managerialism, residential schools are destroying our children's minds and souls. I swear to you I'd never heard of triple-deck bunk beds till the StephJoy fire in 2015 and I'd never actually seen one till the Moi Girls fire last weekend. What kind of sick mind came up with that solution to "overcrowding" in dormitories and hostels? My diet at Machakos School in the mid-nineties wasn't something to write home about, but it wasn't full of chaff or weevils like what I am assured is a routine matter these days. The bottom line, that terrifying tyrant to whom all managers surrender their souls to, is the reason why our children sleep in overcrowded death traps that are poorly ventilated, eat rations that we wouldn't feed our dogs, develop mental health problems because they don't sleep enough, and are under great pressure to "pass exams", bully and are, in turn, bullied, and why many of them lose their connection to reality and take extreme measure to re-exert control over their lives.

Mr Matiang'i and his fellow managers don't know anything about educating children because if they did, they would be moving heaven and earth to provide our children with safe environments to acquire knowledge, develop life skills and adopt the tools they would need to succeed in highly competitive environments. Mr Matiang'i is only interested in the numbers: how many "passed'; how many "transitioned" from one level to the next; how much did it cost (because keeping costs down is the holy grail pursued by the true believers among Kenya's managers). And because he is only interested in numbers, Mr Matiang'i will not insist on the prosecution of the headmasters and headmistresses who were in charge in 2017 when school dormitories went up in flames or students dies. These men and women were negligent. If their negligence goes unpunished Mr Matiang'i will have confirmed for the whole world that even his words of comfort to the victims of the recent fires have been plucked out of the manager's bible, intended to obscure and obfuscate his utter heartlessness and those of his acolytes.

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